Monday, October 29, 2007
National march for West Virginia torture victim.
NOV. 3 MARCH SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
- Friday Nov. 2, 5 p.m.:
A Pre-March remembrance/ prayer vigil will take place at the Logan County trailer home where Megan Williams was kidnapped and tortured
- Saturday November 3, 10 a.m.:
Pre-March Rally for National March against Hate Crimes and Racism
First Baptist Church 423 Shrewsbury St Charleston, WVA 25301
- Saturday November 3, noon:
National March against Hate Crimes and Racism, Charleston, West VA March will begin in front of the First Baptist Church located at 423 Shrewsbury St Charleston WVA 25301 and proceed to the West Virginia State Capitol Building
- Saturday Nov. 3, 5 p.m.:
Fundraiser for Megan Williams and Town Hall Meeting on Race Relations to take place at Rehoboth Cathedral of Christ in Charleston, West Virginia—Bishop James Carter III is the host pastor.
NNPA) — Promising “busloads” of supporters and demonstrators from across the nation to protest the absence of hate crime charges in the alleged month-long rape and torture of a young Black woman, attorney Malik Shabazz of the Washington D.C.-based Black Lawyers for Justice says a national march and rally is planned for Charleston, W. Va. for Saturday, Nov 3.
The primary organizers for the march are Black Lawyers for Justice (BLFJ) and the Support Committee for Megan Williams. This march will be endorsed by at least 100 Black organizations, student groups, clergy, and other community leaders.
Charleston was chosen because the state capital and federal courthouse are located there, organizers said.
So far, Logan County prosecutors have resisted adding either state or federal hate crime charges to the long litany of first-degree criminal offenses six white career criminals—three of whom are women —are charged with in their alleged abduction and torture of Megan Williams, 20.
The six suspects, Frankie Lee Brewster, 49; her son, Bobby Ray, 24, who authorities believe had some sort of relationship with the alleged victim; Danny Combs, 20; George Messer, 27; Karen Burton, 46, and her daughter Alisha, 22—all of whom have collectively racked up 108 criminal charges since 1991, the most serious being first-degree murder —are charged with kidnapping and at least one count each of first-degree sexual assault, among other charges.
The prosecutors’ argument—so much has to be done to make sure their evidence is solid and airtight against each of the six, that state hate crime charges, which carry a maximum of 10 years in prison, could be considered much later on, if at all.
Making sure that all six defendants are convicted for kidnapping, which could send each to prison for life, in addition to first-degree sexual assault, which could add an additional 35 years behind bars, is their top priority.
Two weeks ago, Logan County prosecutor Brian Abraham said hate crime charges would be “difficult” to prove because there is evidence that Megan Williams had a “social relationship” with one of her alleged captors, Bobby Brewster, for several months before.
In fact, Brewster had been in jail from July 18 until August 2 on a domestic abuse charge against Williams.
Federal authorities have ceded the case to the state, so no charges are expected from them.
Black activists like Shabazz, the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party, among others, believe that the allegations of beating, stabbing, strangling with a cable, being raped at knifepoint; having scalding hot water poured on her, being made to eat dog and rat feces; forced to drink urine from a toilet, perform oral sex, lick up her own blood and being threatened with death, all the while being told, “This is what we do to niggers around here,” should be clear evidence that Megan Williams was targeted primarily because she is Black.
Indeed, activists say, Williams’ own words to Logan County Sheriff’s investigators on Sept. 8—the day she was rescued by deputies from the broken-down mobile home trailer she was being held prisoner in after they were tipped off—provided the justification for a hate crime.
“They said it was because I was colored,” Williams is quoted in a written statement to authorities. “They said they don’t like Black people and they said they were going to hang me.”
The young mentally challenged woman added that her alleged captors were usually high on drugs or alcohol when they tortured her.
“It is obvious that this is one of the most sick, horrific, sadistic and evil hate crimes that has ever occurred in U.S. history,’’ Shabazz, who is legally advising Williams and her family, told reporters during a recent press conference in which he demanded that federal and state hate crimes charges be rendered.
“The number of outright hate crimes and injustice cases against Blacks is rising so rapidly it’s hard for our office to keep track,” Shabazz continued on the BLFJ website. “We are calling for every concerned person in our community to respond to this national crisis with vigor and due diligence. The November 3rd March in Charleston is a big step in the direction of organizing to challenge the tide of attacks occurring against Blacks.’’
Not everyone is thrilled that Shabazz and company are advocating for Williams.
Two weeks ago, two groups—the Logan County Improvement League and the American Friends Service Committee’s Empowerment for Women Plus—sponsored a biracial candlelight vigil at a church two miles from where Megan Williams was allegedly held captive and tortured.
Their message—they support the young Black woman, deplore the alleged racial degradation, and want the world to know that what happened is not indicative of their community.
They also urged Logan County authorities to prosecute the case to the fullest extent of the law, even including hate crime charges.
But the coalition, which has welcomed the NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s participation, then blasted those from “outside” who planned to march and rally in Charleston soon.
“We understand that groups from outside Logan County have expressed the intention of coming into our community to show their displeasure,” James Hagood, spokesman for the coalition said, making veiled reference to Malik Shabazz and the Black Lawyers for Justice. “We want to send a message to these people that we are actively engaged in planning peaceful actions to demonstrate our intention to see that Ms. Williams receives justice in Logan County. We do not condone or support violence of any sort from any extremist group.”
Meanwhile, there has been criticism that many of the national women’s groups have been quiet about the Megan Williams case.
There are numerous blogsites online dedicated to keeping up with the case. The Black Press is keeping the story alive, as are Black talk radio hosts like Imhotep Gary Byrd in New York, who discusses the latest developments weekly on his programs.
Clearly part of the strategy in holding a massive demonstration in Charleston is to get Megan Williams story back into the major media, and national headlines.
As plans for the Nov. 3 national march and rally are being readied, the court cases for the accused are moving steadily along.
Probable cause has been determined by a local magistrate for all six defendants now.
So far, at least three of the six suspects waived their right to preliminary hearings, with one, Karen Burton, already having her case sent to the grand jury.
That panel is expected to take up charges against the remaining five not now, but in January, for reasons that weren’t apparent at press time.
Burton, who allegedly cut patches of Williams’ hair off while making the “This is what we do” remark, was the last of the six to have a preliminary hearing on October 4.
In addition to kidnapping and first-degree sexual assault, Burton faces malicious wounding, assault during the commission of a felony and thirteen counts of battery.
Part of the evidence against Burton is a statement given to investigators by Bobby Brewster alleging that she, her daughter Alisha and George Messer cut Williams’ hair off, beat her, choked her, slashed her ankle and forced the black woman to eat feces.
Brewster’s police statement confirms that Burton repeatedly called Williams “nigger” in the course of allegedly attacking her.
In her statement to police, Burton denied doing anything to Williams.
Defense attorneys in the case are already raising the specter of filing change of venue motions, citing the intense local media coverage thus far, and how their clients have been portrayed.
The attorneys say their clients, who they allege have been threatened, cannot get a fair trial in Logan County.
Prosecutors counter that the likelihood of the trial being moved is slight at best, saying that other high-profile cases have been fairly and successfully tried in Logan County.